GSMA Future Networks 5G Global Launch Update: Revenue generated to hit $4.2 billion by next year (Gartner)
5G’s development has continued apace over August, with new evidence of clear progress towards mainstream availability in both the shorter and longer term. By the start of August 5G subscribers had exceeded 2 million in South Korea, according to the country’s Ministry of Science and ICT, with local media projecting 5 million users by the end of the year. Late August saw Switzerland’s Sunrise announce 80% population coverage in 262 towns and cities across this mountainous country, through its 5G for People drive, with fellow Swiss operator Swisscom projecting 90% population coverage by the end of the year. Then, at the start of this month, Deutsche Telekom’s 5G network launched in five cities across Germany, becoming the world’s 46th 5G network to go live.
The quickening progress in 5G is in part thanks to cooperative efforts across the mobile industry, which enjoys a packed calendar of events and resources designed to foster discussion between operators worldwide, so that learnings can be shared and common challenges addressed. The GSMA is now seeking to facilitate further global collaboration amongst its members with the launch of the 5G Era Resolution Centre: the platform allows technical experts to share their knowledge and provide practical solutions for faster rollout of 5G, and has to date delivered a resolution rate of 97%.
In the UK, following announcements from EE and Vodafone earlier in the year, Three launched its 5G broadband service for the home last month, enabling its customers to access 5G without needing a cutting-edge 5G-ready phone to go with it: the Three 5G Hub allows users to simply connect devices wirelessly to 5G in the home as one would with WiFi. Three’s CEO Dave Dyson explained that “we’ve taken a simple approach… the ease and immediacy of it all means home broadband using 5G is going to be key to the future of the connected home. No more paying for landline rental, no more waiting for engineers. It really is the straightforward plug and play broadband that customers have been waiting for.” Three’s 5G network is already available in London, with coverage across 25 further UK cities planned by the end of the year.
Similarly, in the US, Verizon has partnered with airport connectivity specialists Boingo Wireless to leverage the latter’s experience with distributed antenna systems, small cells and Wi-Fi to expand 5G service indoors and to public spaces like airports, stadiums and hotels. The two companies are working to that end on what they call a “hyper-dense network” for indoor spaces, as Verizon adds Phoenix this month to its 10-strong list of US cities enjoying access to its 5G network.
While these are ingenious and valuable schemes to enable indoor 5G access in the immediate term, the most significant gains for all concerned lie in wide-scale upgrades to base stations – and there is growing evidence that the mobile industry’s investments to that end are coming to fruition. Research by Gartner found last month that revenues generated from 5G infrastructure will almost double next year, as more and more operators start to launch their next-generation networks and services. Where last year around $613 million was generated by 5G, $2.2 billion is expected to be raised in 2019, reaching $4.2 billion in 2020; by 2021, this figure will reach $6.8 billion.
Previous research by Gartner reveals that 66 per cent of commercial organisations plan to deploy 5G by next year – and as CEO of smart city specialists Tech Mahindra C. P. Gurnani pointed out last week, this means 5G is poised imminently to revolutionise not only communications but the business and entertainment worlds as a whole. “While current latency levels are as low as 100 milliseconds, 5G brings latency down to a single millisecond,” he explains; “we are talking about imperceptible delays that will make physical location all but irrelevant in a variety of contexts.” The use cases Mr Gurnani cites include some that most of us can barely conceive of now, but will soon become commonplace – including remote surgery, ultra-precise supply chain management, and smart agricultural across enormous areas.
Collaboration is key to making this happen in good time. In Asia, China Telecom and China Unicom have reached provisional agreement to share the cost of 5G infrastructure construction, to accelerate the timeline of rollout, according to the Chairmen of each company at a joint press conference last week. The announcement came just two weeks after China Mobile signalled it would increase its budget forecast for 5G from RMB 17 billion to RMB 24 billion over 2019. The UK Government meanwhile has announced plans to ensure rural areas are not left behind as 5G is rolled out, with a consultation designed to address the most frequent regulatory obstacles operators face in upgrading and deploying new infrastructure. Under the proposals operators would be able to build taller masts in rural areas, allowing wider areas to be covered with fewer base stations, and could work together to share infrastructure to further maximise coverage.
Last month in the US, Sprint launched its mobile 5G networks in a number of major US cities – including Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix and Washington DC – giving users what the company claims is the “largest initial 5G coverage in the US” to date. As this rollout continues it won’t just be connectivity that changes in leaps and bounds, though, it’ll be the very devices we use, as emerging technologies such as Cloud XR and robotics are brought swiftly into the mainstream. With half of all smartphones on the market forecast to be 5G within three years – and operators acting as partners on use cases as varied as driverless cars to intelligent beehives – the mobile industry will be very much at the centre of this process too.
If you’d like to hear in detail about how we can expect consumer devices to evolve with the onset of 5G, LG Electronics, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Sony and more will be speaking at our next GSMA Future Networks Seminar, The 5G Era: Consumer Devices of the Future, on 22 October at MWC19 Los Angeles.